The Old Streets of Beijing

Idea – Family Videos on YouTube, and a question for YouTube Experts!

So, I’ve taken to recording SO many videos of the family on my mobile (and now Glass too), and it’s great to share them privately with my family all over the world on YouTube. I used to burn DVDs every year around Christmas for the whole family using iMovie, but that’s kind of a pain. Now, the videos are nice and short, and there are a lot of them… uploading them all as “Unlisted” to YouTube then sharing the link seems to be pretty awesome. I’ve also taken all my old family videos DVDs and ripped them and uploaded them to YouTube. I feel good having a backup on the cloud. And, frankly, it’s often easier to go to YouTube rather than put in a DVD!

Question to YouTube Experts: So, I have made a playlist called “Family Videos” that contains about 60+ videos. All the videos are “unlisted” but I can’t figure out a way to make an “unlisted” playlist that I share with the family. The playlist is either “Private” or “Public”. If it’s private, then only I can see it, right? It says I can “share” the private playlist, but no one can see it until it is public, and I don’t want it public… so… what do I do?

I really want this private family playlist to work. That way, the family can just always check this playlist for the “latest” videos. Know what I mean? Otherwise, I have to send out an email every time I add a new short video to the playlist.

Nat Geo Traveler – project from a student

See this awesome magazine cover here? It was made by Dave Reily for one of his projects for school. This is one of the cool things about Creative Commons Noncommercial — I end up with tons of students all over the world that end up re-using my photos for art projects or school projects. You can see more from Dave and his project here on is FB page.

HDR Photo

Daily Photo – The Old Streets of Beijing

This street is very close to Tiananmen Square, Beijing. There is a lot of classical architecture and old stone buildings that line the road. There’s also an old streetcar that goes up and down the street. It’s all too good to be true, and is probably at least partially fake, but that’s okay with me. It seems barely authentic enough to seem passable.

I was looking for a place to stop for dinner with Tom Anderson, Priscilla Dorresteijn, and her boyfriend. We walked up and down this street several times, just taking our time and taking lots of photos. We actually had to hurry it up because restaurants close pretty early around here!

China Beijing

The Old Streets of Beijing

Photo Information

  • Date TakenMay 28, 2013 at 10:34am
  • CameraNEX-7
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time25
  • Aperture13
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length11.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias+1.7

Google Glass in Dystopian China

Glass in China

Found in the rubble of the polluted ruins...

What’s it like to wear Glass in China?

Beijing is more recently known for its crazy pollution (image links), so it was a real challenge shooting over the past week or so while I was there. It’s my fifth time to Beijing, and the pollution gets worse and worse every time. This means that shooting things far away is very difficult, because it gets fogged out like a video game that can only handle a few polygons at a time.

I was most interested in the reactions of people to Google Glass in China. I’ve noticed people’s reactions in a few places so far – In San Francisco, Toronto, Auckland, and now my hometown in Queenstown, New Zealand. For sure, people’s reactions in China were totally different. Now, of course this is all anecdotal, so you can hardly figure out a cultural trend-line from my observations, but it is interesting nonetheless.

Glass in China

Glass shot: When the sun sets in Beijing, sometimes you get a bit of this thing I call a smogbow.

Security Concerns

I was a bit paranoid to wear them through the airport, in customs, and near military or police. There was always a mild panic they would abscond with them and stick me in a white room with some sort of Chinese Agent Smith.

I did indeed have an “encounter” with a guy from the military very close to Tiananmen Square over by the National Theatre. I was taking photos with Tom and some local friends that worked at Google and another small startup. One of the security-military guys came up to me and was very interested! Mostly just sort of tech-fascinated, though, and curious. I didn’t sense any danger in the interaction, so I didn’t turn around and run. My goal in China was: “Don’t run from the military,” so I tried my best to meet that goal.

Glass in China

Glass shot: Shooting inside a beautiful glass room in the late afternoon...

Anyway, he got really close to the Glass and my friends helped me translate what he was asking. He was trying to figure out how it worked and was fascinated that you could get the internet to work on it. He then asked to try them on, and he loved them! He spent several minutes playing with the menus and even said, “Okay Glass, take a picture,” which it did (amazingly, even though his accent was rather thick!) While he was smiling the whole time, he was also trying to say a bunch of different things because he was mesmerized by the idea that you could talk to it! Everyone had a really good time and we were all laughing. For some reason, when he tried to speak English, he sounded exactly like Borat.

So that was my only interaction with the government-machine complex. Other than that, all my interactions were with the rest of the Chinese population.

Glass in China

Glass shot: Some of the least pollution was outside of the city. About two hours north of Beijing, I found this winery (!!) with this rather European-looking castle. A girl was walking to her wedding so I grabbed a quick shot.

How the citizenry of China reacted to Glass

First, let me tell you about the reaction from the more western world (SF, Toronto, Auckland, Queenstown) where I have a fairly consistent experience.

Whenever I am in public, people my age (I am 41) and younger are SUPER interested in the glass. Especially younger people. When I walk through the streets, I must get approached by a dozen (or sometimes, many many more) people per hour who say the following things (other Glass Explorers will probably agree with hearing these things): “Wow what is that thing?” “Whoa, is that Google Glass?” and “This is the first time I’ve ever seen it!” and “How much does it cost?” (man I get that one A LOT!) and “What does it look like?” and “What can you do with it?” and, well, the list just goes on and on.

The point is that people in the west are just so excited and mesmerized by it — they come up and engage and want to know more, try it, play with it, etc. Now, I do notice people a lot older than me are a bit more standoffish, unless they are really into geek culture. They look ponderously at me, clearly thinking, “What is happening to our world?” I had one older guy in the elevator at the Four Seasons shake his head dismissively and sigh, but that was the MOST negative reaction to about 1000+ people that have seen it.

Glass in China

Glass shot: I carried my tripod over my shoulder a lot. This is the angle that I see a lot of my day!

One group that seemed SUPER excited about it was black guys! Haha… I guess I could say African-Americans, but I saw several groups in Canada too, so I don’t even know what — is that African Canadian? Err… I’m not a journalist… so, I’ll just… dispense with all the labeling and let’s just say, err… well… groups of non-white-people that gathered on the street. This happened like eight times! They would get really excited and say things like, “Wow, that’s the Google Glass!!!!” “I gotta get me some of that!” “That looks TIGHT – how much is it!!” Haha it was great… I went over to talk to them all and they had so much fun with it. My guess is that more “white” people would have reacted like this too, but they are sometimes more reserved. Haha… man, I know… what a generalization, but I’m just telling you what happened to me.

So, let’s talk about China. Crickets. Man, they just would look at me curiously for a second and then turn their heads away. It was really interesting. Very few people came up to me, and they were usually younger (teens and twenties). But, mostly, they was just silent about it. I attribute some of it to not speaking English, but I think there was something larger going on.

It may be a combination of vestigial communist cultural reactions to strangers and general “out-of-the-box-shock” at seeing the Glass. Now, the Chinese are as technophilic as their Western counterparts. They are iPhone and iPad crazy! You go into any Starbucks, and upwardly mobile and middle-class people fill every seat and stare at their iPhones. Apple did a great job of marketing there, and the “lifestyle” of a high-end tech user is quite aspirational. It’s a wonderful sign of wealth and upward mobility, which is very important in their new money-driven culture.

Glass in China

Glass shot: A boy watches his girlfriend prancing and dancing in the street.

There is something still broken in the Chinese culture, I’m afraid. It’s the cultural idea of innovation and design. It does indeed exist in pockets (I met many people with tech startups, Google, Youku, and many other places that are mega-techy and doing awesome stuff) , but, generally, there is not a cultural “worship” of technology innovation like there is in the West. For that reason, I think we’ll continue to see the “bigger” ideas (that are well executed!) like Glass and others come from the West. I had lunch with Kevin Kelly, who spends even more time studying the Chinese culture. He recently visited several dorm rooms all over the country and saw that they had very few (or often, none) aspirations beyond making money. He said there were no posters on the wall, and when he asked them who their “heroes” are, they could not give any answers. It’s strange indeed, and may point to a larger cultural issue. I hope Kevin writes a book about it!

A Nice Glass Story from Beijing

This has nothing to do with the story above, except as a really cool use-case example of Glass.

At the airport, I got a local simcard so I could use the Chinese internet through Glass. I really had no problem at all! I could get maps, emails, send messages, and Google stuff via voice. One day, I was with Tom and we were driving by Tiananmen Square and there was a strange flag I could not recognize. So I said, exactly this (yes, it was a malformed question): “Okay Glass, Google What flag is it that has a gold lion on a red background and an orange stripe and a green stripe.” Immediately, it came back and said “Sri Lanka”! Wow! It even showed me a photo of the flag and visually brought up the Wikipedia entry on the Flag of Sri Lanka. Now, WHY the flag of Sri Lanka was hanging over Tienanmen Square was another question I did not ask. I figured that Sri Lanka probably just invaded overnight and had hoisted their flag to signal victory.

Photos with Glass from Beijing

I have a Glass gallery over on Google+ that I’m continuing to add new photos to. You’ll see several from China in there…

Glass in China

I've taken thousands of photos with Glass. Here are some of my favorites.

Camera Experiment in China

I know regular readers of the blog are waiting on the results of my China Experiment: Dumping Nikon for Sony. I’m working on that piece too… I should have it done in a week or so! In the meantime, you can probably see several of the Sony NEX shots in my stream on G+.

Daily Photo – Downtown Beijing After Rain

Just about the only time you get a break from the smog is after a good rain. I’m sure all that nonsense just ends up down on the ground and soaks slowly into the groundwater.

Anyhoo, this is the CBD (Central Business District) of Beijing. And yes, I took this with the Sony NEX-7. I’m working on that other piece I mentioned above and will put it up here soon!

Beijing China

Downtown Beijing After Rain

Photo Information

  • Date TakenMay 25, 2013 at 9:43am
  • CameraNEX-7
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time6
  • Aperture8
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length10.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

The Forbidden Wooden City

Free $50 Credit at Gelaskins – comment to win

Did you know Gelaskins is selling some of my work as skins for your phones/laptops/tablets? Cool! I want to give away a free $50 credit to a random commenter below. Luke will make a random selection and get back to you soon!

Daily Photo – The Forbidden Wooden City

How long did this full model of the Forbidden City take to build? Can you imagine doing something like this for a school project? And it seems so… flammable!

I took this photo inside the city planning museum in Beijing. Across the street in Tiananmen Square, there were tens of thousands of people, but this museum was totally empty. If you ever do visit one of these Chinese mega-cities, I think they all have these strange “City Planning” museums – they all are filled with really cool models like this.

Forbidden City Model

The Forbidden Wooden City

Photo Information

  • Date TakenOctober 1, 2010 at 12:56am
  • CameraNIKON D3X
  • Camera MakeNikon
  • Exposure Time2
  • Aperture6.7
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length22.0 mm
  • FlashNo Flash
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias+2

The New Garden Path Along the Great Wall of China

Video from the Great Wall

Here’s a video I took while up here!

Daily Photo – The New Garden Path Along the Great Wall of China

Just to get to this point required a long walk through a rocky forest. It wasn’t like the super-pristine part of the Great Wall (which is actually quite fake and Disney-like) — where you can drive up in a huge tour bus and park in huge parking lot. No, it wasn’t like that at all. Instead, there was a “path” that was barely discernible (much less so when I walked back in the dark alone!) that wove up through a forest along an old creekbed. I’m not sure I could find it again if I had to!

Great Wall of China

The New Garden Path Along the Great Wall of China

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraNIKON D3X
  • Camera MakeNikon
  • Exposure Time1/20
  • Aperture6.7
  • ISO160
  • Focal Length14.0 mm
  • FlashNo Flash
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias+3

The Royal Guard in Beijing

Watch The Show Soon!

Every Monday night at 7 PM PT, 10 PM ET is the weekly show, and tonight we have on a bunch of people from Austin to talk about the photowalk and give away the prizes! I believe we have over 80 to give away, and you’ll get a chance to see a bunch of fun photos from the event. See you soon! :)

Daily Photo – The Royal Guard in Beijing

The interior space and design of the Capitol Museum is absolutely amazing. I don’t know if they designed the light to do this in the middle of the day or not, but I found it rather striking! If the architects did this on purpose, then even more kudos to them.

I must admit that I do not find all museums to be equally interesting. Some are just plain boring. Others are awesome… it depends on if the subject matter is something that is up my alley. I don’t like the “pressure” of making you feel bad if you aren’t fascinated by every little thing in a museum… that is silly.

Like, for example, I found this museum a little bit boring. I know a bit about Chinese history (I played a lot of Romance of the Three Kingdoms back in the day, and I was always Gu Yu!), but I get a bit confused when it comes to the some of the more bizarre and abstract lineages. Anyway, this museum featured a lot of that. But, on the plus side, the architecture was so cool that it kept me pleasantly distracted!

The Royal Guard in Beijing Capitol Museum

The Royal Guard in Beijing

Photo Information

  • Date TakenOctober 2, 2010 at 2:27am
  • CameraNIKON D3X
  • Camera MakeNikon
  • Exposure Time1/6
  • Aperture8
  • ISO200
  • Focal Length14.0 mm
  • FlashNo Flash
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias+2

Four Bums in Beijing

Light Camera Version 1.2 Updated

Pop on over to http://lightcameraapp.com and you can grab the new version of Light Camera. We’ve completely reworked the way overlay effects operate with the interface – hope you like it! :)

Daily Photo – Four Bums in Beijing

I was in one of the art-studios area of Beijing when I saw this most unusual statue! As you can see, there are a lot more than four bums in a row, so it was a bum-composition-issue that I had never faced before. Notice the ears too.

Actually this kind of “Avant Garde” art in Beijing is very unusual. It’s strange to find a Chinese artist that goes way outside of the norm to try something new… most of them are traditionally trained and do traditional, predictable work.

Four Bums in Beijing

Four Bums in Beijing

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • Camera
  • Camera Make
  • Exposure Time
  • Aperturef/1.4
  • ISO200
  • Focal Length85mm (85mm in 35mm)
  • Flashflash did not fire
  • Exposure Programaperture priority
  • Exposure Bias

Birds in the Nest

Going Back to China Soon

I’ll be heading back to China… Now that I am in New Zealand, I need to figure out the process for getting my Chinese visa. I think I have to send it into the American consolate in Wellington, but not too sure! Getting visas is still such a pain… the cost isn’t the annoying thing as much as the time and procedures associated.

Daily Photo – Birds in the Nest

This is the famous “Bird’s Nest” building from the Olympics in Beijing. After the Olympics are over, these special buildings all seem a bit lonely. I know they still hold events in them from time to time, but that seems more like the exception than the rule. Also, this location is so far away from the center of the city that it is extremely inconvenient. Once you arrive to have a look, you are interested, but always thinking of getting back to the main part of the city… this gives it even more of a forlorn feeling… but maybe that is just me.

Bird Nest Beijing Olympics

Birds in the Nest

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • Camera
  • Camera Make
  • Exposure Time
  • Aperturef/5.6
  • ISO200
  • Focal Length116mm (116mm in 35mm)
  • Flashflash did not fire
  • Exposure Programaperture priority
  • Exposure Bias

A moody evening at the Great Wall

Selling Cans of Fresh Air in China

Related to today’s post, I saw that some people have taken to selling cans of fresh air! Remember Spaceballs?

Actually, I have a fairly pragmatic view of all of this… All industrialized nations go through this pollution curve until the society becomes efficient enough to take care of its own environment. Things don’t get worse and worse. They get pretty bad, and then it ramps back down. Most western societies went through this curve already… I think it’s extra bad in China because they have 10x as many people as any Western civilization that went through the same curve.

I’ll be back in China in a few months… I’ll see if it is really worse than previous years.

Daily Photo – A moody evening at the Great Wall

One of the good things about the haze around parts of China are the moody sunset hours. You rarely get those epic cloud-sunsets, but instead things drift away into black through a myriad assortment of colors.

Sunset Great Wall of China

A moody evening at the Great Wall

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • Camera
  • Camera Make
  • Exposure Time
  • Aperturef/8
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length44mm (44mm in 35mm)
  • Flashflash did not fire
  • Exposure Programaperture priority
  • Exposure Bias

Random Sighting in Beijing

Reminder for the Stuck In Customs Community

If you’re looking for a place to share your photos, have discussions, get feedback, and this sort of thing, we have a wonderful Stuck In Customs Community that you can join for free. Hope to see you in there! :) I don’t always get a chance to comment, but I do scroll through there and see everything ! :)

You might be surprised at the number of views you are getting there even if you are not getting many comments or +1′s. I picked a random shot with no comments and grabbed this screenshot (this photo is by Scott Stringham). You can see it has over 200 views!

Daily Photo – Random Sighting in Beijing

I was walking around the arts district in Beijing and saw this cute girl posing up against a wall for her friend. After I was sneaky and took this photo, she looked over and gave me an even bigger smile! hehe… I notice sometimes that girls over there take a lot of photos of each other and act silly. And then, whenever I swoop in and take a picture, they get even sillier. It’s a very strange phenomenon but it’s always fun.

Cute Girl Beijing China

Random Sighting in Beijing

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • Camera
  • Camera Make
  • Exposure Time
  • Aperturef/1.4
  • ISO200
  • Focal Length85mm (85mm in 35mm)
  • Flashflash did not fire
  • Exposure Programaperture priority
  • Exposure Bias

The Commune, China

New updates to OnOne Software

In case you missed it, there are new updates to OnOne software that you may enjoy! It’s one of the tools in my arsenal… along with Photomatix and many more. I keep my latest, most used tools up to date inside the HDR Tutorial.

Daily Photo – The Commune, China

This is a really cool place near Beijing!

It’s an expensive resort, but really quite unique. They had a series of architects come in and create very modern “houses” that are scattered across the hilly countryside. Then, they “repeated” those designs and created many little “rooms” inside each of the houses where you can stay. One of the other great features of the resort is that you can begin a walk up an old river bed for about half a mile before reaching a forgotten, abandoned part of the Great Wall of China.

The commune resort, china

The Commune, China

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • Camera
  • Camera Make
  • Exposure Time
  • Aperturef/6.7
  • ISO160
  • Focal Length18mm (18mm in 35mm)
  • Flashflash did not fire
  • Exposure Programaperture priority
  • Exposure Bias

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